75th anniversary: Mickey Cochrane gets beaned

Seventy-five years ago today, Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane played in his final game.

Heading into the day, he had no idea it would be his last game. No one knew it. That wasn’t the plan for the player-manager of the Detroit Tigers, but it’s what happened.

Clearly, Cochrane was approaching the end of his career. He turned 34 years old just before the season began in 1937. That’s pretty old for a ballplayer, especially back in those days. It’s doubly old for a catcher, who plays the game’s most taxing position on the body.

Aside from physical problems, there were also some emotional concerns for Cochrane. In 1936, the strains of being Detroit’s player-manager apparently got to him, and he had a nervous breakdown. Cochrane appeared in just 44 games that year, the first time he played in fewer than 100 contests.

However, Cochrane appeared to have put the problems behind him when 1937 began. Through the first stretch of the season, he played in nearly every game and hit around .300. It was vintage Cochrane.

May 25, 1937, looked like a great day for Cochrane, far from his last one. After making an early out, Cochrane connected for a solo home run in the third. It was only his second blast of the year, and it tied the game: Tigers 1, Yankees 1.

While Cochrane and his teammates were thrilled by the blast, at least one man was furious: Yankees pitcher Bump Hadley. He wanted revenge for serving up the gopher ball, and he intended to get it next time Cochrane came to the plate.

Cochrane strode to the plate again a few innings later. Hadley had been waiting for this and tossed a fastball right at Cochrane’s head. Unable to get out of the way, Cochrane took the pitch square on. They had no batting helmets in those days, and the ball broke the star’s skull.

They had to take him to the hospital right away, but the problem was so bad that he didn’t fully regain consciousness for over a week. That pitch could’ve killed him, and it damn near did. Cochrane was able to recover enough to return to the bench but had to give even that up the next year. His playing career ended the moment the ball hit his head.

As an oddity, it means Cochrane is one of the most famous players to homer in his last at-bat. The top of the list are he, Ted Williams, Albert Belle and Jim Edmonds.

As for Hadley, he stayed in the game and picked up the win, 4-3 over the Tigers in 8.2 innings pitched.

Aside from that, many other events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that occurred X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim things.

Day-versaries

4,000 days since the Pirates fire GM Cam Bonifray.

5,000 days since Mike Piazza hits his 200th home run. According to WPA, it’s his most clutch one. It’s a three-run homer with two outs in the top of the ninth and his team trailing 2-0. So yeah, it’s pretty clutch.

5,000 days since Marlins hurler Kirt Ojala fans four Expos in one inning.

5,000 days since Manny Ramirez homers twice today, giving him five home runs in two days.

6,000 days since the Royals trade Wally Joyner to the Padres for Bip Roberts.

6,000 days since the Red Sox sign free agent Tom Gordon.

6,000 days since Baltimore sign free agent Roberto Alomar.

6,000 days since the Yankees sign free agent David Cone.

8,000 days since Bob Welch posts his 10th straight win, his career-best streak.

9,000 days since a dark day in Blue Jays history and a great day in Detroit. On the last day of the 1987 season, the Tigers top the Blue Jays, 1-0, to clinch the AL East as Frank Tanana outpitches Jimmy Key.

9,000 days since the following players all appear in their last game: Reggie Jackson, Davey Lopes, Bill Madlock, Doug DeCinces, Darrell Porter, Tom Paciorek, and Roy Smalley. Also, longtime manager Gene Mauch fills out his last lineup card.

10,000 days since the Royals trade toothpick aficionado U L Washington to the Expos.

15,000 days since Boston’s Luis Aparicio and Reggie Smith hit back-to-back homers to lead off the game. That’s the first time any AL game began that way in seven years. Incredibly, the same pitcher allowed them then as allows them today: Jim Perry.

20,000 days since Stan Musial tears a muscle while swimming. This will end his consecutive-game streak at 895 games.

Anniversaries

1845 Lip Pike, 1870s star player, is born.

1858 Tip O’Neil, member of the all-Canadian team, is born.

1882 Curry Foley hits for the first cycle in big league history.

1887 Harry Stovey, at one point the game’s all-time home run king, hits a leadoff inside-the-park home run. It’s the second and last time he began a game this way.

1893 The New York Giants sign King Kelly, one of the biggest baseball stars of the 1880s.

1894 Joe Judge, first baseman, is born.

1899 Louisville hurler Deacon Phillippe tosses a no-hitter against the Giants, walking two along the way.

1906 Martin Dihigo, Hall of Fame Negro Leaguer, is born.

1914 A win by the Pirates pushes manager Fred Clarke 458 games over .500 for his career (1,481-1,023), which is his all-time peak. He’ll go 121-158 from here on out before leaving the dugout. Fun fact: at one point Clarke was the game’s all-time winningest manager.

1919 Longtime Tigers manager Hughie Jennings lodges his 1,000th win. He’s 1,000-833 along the way.

1921 Babe Ruth hits reputedly the longest home run ever at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, estimated at 500 feet.

1922 Babe Ruth earns one of his five suspensions in 1922. After called out trying to stretch a single into a double, he tosses dirt in the umpire’s face and goes after a heckling fan. He’s ejected, fined $500, and suspended one game. He’ll also lose his captaincy of the Yankees, a title he was awarded only six games earlier.

1922 Sam Rice, who hits 34 home runs in well 10,246 career plate appearances, homers for the second straight day. Unlike yesterday, today’s home run is an inside-the-park shot.

1922 The Supreme Court rules against the Federal League in its case against organized baseball, as the court rules 9-0 that baseball is a sport and not interstate commerce and, thus, not subject to normal anti-trust laws.

1926 Miller Huggins, Hall of Fame skipper, manages his 2,000th game. His record is 1,058-922 at this point.

1929 Dizzy Dean signs a contract with the Houston Buffaloes, a St. Louis Cardinals farm team.

1929 One of the best-hitting pitchers of all-time, Hall of Famer Red Ruffing has a great day at the plate, going 4-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs.

1932 Ernie Lombardi, famous as one of the slowest ballplayers of all-time, hits his fourth triple of the month. He’ll slow up as he gets older.

1934 Indians trade ace hurler Wes Ferrell to the Red Sox.

1935 Babe Ruth’s last moment of glory. He goes 4-for-4 with three home runs, the last three of his career. He ties his personal best for total bases in one game (13) and homers. His team loses anyway: Pirates 11, Braves 7. Random fact: as great as Ruth’s achievement was, it’s arguably not the greatest one to occur on this day. Also on May 25, 1935, Jesse Owens sets five world records and ties a sixth at the Big Ten track and field championships.

1939 Yankee pitcher Red Ruffing wins his 200th game: 200-184 for his career. He lost 100 games before winning 60.

1939 Bob Feller tosses his second one-hitter. He’ll end his career with a record 12 one-hitters. He fans 10 and walks six in this one. His Indian teammate Ken Keltner bangs out three home runs in his support.

1941 Luke Appling, Hall of Fame White Sox shortstop, plays his 447th straight game without hitting a home run. He’ll get one next game. He’ll also get one many years later in an Old Times Game at age 81 (I think). Reputedly, that Old Timers Game garnered him more fan mail than anything else in his career.

1950 Ken Keltner plays his last major league game.

1951 One of the greats makes his big league debut: Willie Mays.

1953 Ralph Kiner becomes the 12th member of the 300-home run club. All 12 are in the Hall of Fame: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mel Ott, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize, Ted Williams, Hank Greenberg, Ralph Kiner, Al Simmons, Rogers Hornsby, and Chuck Klein.

1954 Bob Knepper is born.

1954 Whitey Ford surrenders three triples in one game, but the Yankees win anyway, 9-3 over Washington.

1954 Yankee reliever Joe Page plays in his last game.

1954 Willie Mays sets a personal best by scoring five runs in one game. He’ll do it twice more, both times in 1964.

1955 Charlie Dressen manages his 1,000th game. He’s 527-467 so far.

1956 Minor leaguer Tommy Brown of the Nashville Volunteers reaches base for the 20th consecutive time up: 10 hits and 10 walks.

1960 Don Drysdale, a very good hitting pitcher, has maybe his worst day at the plate: 0-for-4 with 4 whiffs. It’s his only 4-K game.

1961 Pitchers duel: LA 1, STL 0. It’s Sandy Koufax versus Bob Gibson. Koufax: 9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K. Bob Gibson: 8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 8 K. (Lindy McDaniel pitched the ninth for St. Louis). Though both become iconic pitchers, each is still trying to establish himself. The loss gives Gibson a career record of 8-12, while the win gives Koufax a career record of 41-42. A Tommy Davis home run accounted for the day’s scoring. St. Louis All-Star third baseman Ken Boyer has—according to WPA—his worst game ever: 0-for-4 with 2 strikeouts and a –0.427 WPA.

1964 Groundbreaking begins for St. Louis’ new ballpark, Busch Stadium.

1965 Don Drysdale, who never threw a no-hitter in his career, has his only complete-game one-hitter. Curt Flood of the Cardinals hit a leadoff single in the first inning, but that was it. Aside from an error by LA’s shortstop, no one else go on base all day against Drysdale.

1969 Jim Bunning wins his 200th game: 200-151.

1969 Angels fire Bill Rigney after a loss today. He was the first manager in team’s history and, until Mike Scioscia, their longest-lasting one in franchise history. The loss also gives Rigney a career record 92 games under .500, his all-time worst (957-1,049).

1971 Reggie Jackson hits the first of 10 walk-off home runs in his career. He’ll have two more by the end of 1971.

1971 Carl Yastrzemski draws five walks in one game. He went 1-for-1 otherwise, but the Senators prevail over the Red Sox, 6-5.

1973 Joe Pepitone plays his final game.

1973 Todd Walker, second baseman, is born.

1973 Jim Perry has his best game ever according to WPA: 11 IP, 5, H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K. It’s a no-decision but his longest outing ever. WPA: 0.969.

1974 Hall of Fame skipper Dick Williams manages his 1,000th game. He’s 570-429 so far.

1975 Fat man Mickey Lolich wins his 200th game: 200-160

1976 Tom Seaver losses his 100th game: 173-100. He earns that loss, too, by allowing a career-most 18 baserunners (15 hits, three walks) in just six innings.

1977 In only their 42nd game in franchise history, the Toronto Blue Jays pick off four baserunners in one game. They lose to Oakland anyway, 6-5.

1979 Tom Seaver has his worst start ever: 2 IP, 10 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 1 BB, 1 K for a Game Score of 8.

1980 Dodgers lose 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to the Cubs. They lead 1-0 entering the bottom of the ninth, only to suffer through this sequence: ground out, double, single (lead runner advances to third), fly out, and error by the shortstop that allows the tying and winning runs to score. You rarely ever have the tying and winning runs score on a walk-off error.

1981 Bill Stein, Texas, gets a hit for the seventh straight pinch-hit appearance.

1981 A Dan Okrent article on a then-unknown Bill James appears in Sports Illustrated: “He Does It By the Numbers”.

1981 Carl Yastrzemski plays in his 3,000th game.

1982 Fergie Jenkins, the greatest Canadian in baseball history, records his 3,000th strikeout.

1983 Pittsburgh pitchers Jim Bibby and Jim Winn walk seven straight batters, tying a 74-year-old record.

1984 Cubs trade first baseman Bill Buckner to Boston for starting pitcher Dennis Eckersley.

1985 Marathon game: Royals 2, White Sox 1 (17). Both teams scored one run in the eighth inning.

1986 George Brett gets his 2,000th career hit.

1986 Carlton Fisk fans four times in one game for the only time in his career: 0-for-5 with an intential walk and a hit-by-pitch.

1989 Mariners-Expos conduct a five-player trade: Montreal gets established ace Mark Langston while Seattle gets up-and-comer Randy Johnson.

1989 Tommy John plays in his last game. He began his career in the Kennedy administration, becoming one of the only major leaguers to play under seven different US presidents.

1990 Kevin Mitchell homers three times in one game.

1991 Bob Welch walks the first batter of the game, something he’d gone 172 straight starts without doing. He’ll do it three more times in 1991.

1994 WPA’s favorite Randy Johnson start: 9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K. He wins a 1-0 complete-game shutout for a WPA of 0.867.

1997 The Twins retire Kirby Puckett’s number.

2002 Pitcher Aaron Harang makes his major league debut.

2003 Ron Gant plays his last game.

2004 Ivan Rodriguez has his worst game ever, so sayeth WPA: 0-for-5 with a GIDP. The Royals top the Tigers 4-3. His WPA: -0.518.

2007 Brewer slugger Ryan Braun makes his big league debut.

2008 In a doubleheader, Omar Vizquel ties and breaks the record for most games played at shortstop with 2,584 in his career.

2009 Alex Rodriguez has his fourth career 5-for-5 game.

2009 Freddy Sanchez of the Pirates gets six hits in one game.

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Comments

  1. Ron said...

    50 years and a day later, May 26, 1962:
    The great Al Kaline of the Detroit Tigers fractures his collarbone while making a dramatic game-saving catch in right field. Kaline has helped preserve a 2 – 1 victory over the New York Yankees but he will miss two months with the injury. At the time of the injury Kaline is having his usual spectacular season; leading the American League with a .336 ave. 13 homeruns, and 38 rbi. He will miss nearly 60 games before returning to the Tigers and play in exactly 100 games for the season finishing with 29 homeruns and 94 rbi while batting .304

  2. opus132 said...

    The Yankees had ended another star’s career the same way not quite a generation earlier, when Carl Mays hit the Cleveland Indians’ star shortstop Ray Chapman with a pitch in 1920, killing him.  Always the Yankees!

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